Four Ways Your Customers Can Be A Source of Inspiration

Make it simple for customers to give you the feedback you need to serve them better.

November/December 2016

Customers are the greatest source for insights about your business. Whether you are seeking ways to improve your business or to correct something that might not be working, customers can provide you with an accurate picture. Here are four ways to make it easy for your customers to provide their feedback.

1.    In-Person and Email. A powerful way to gather customer data is to go directly to the individual, either in person or via email—but that requires more than just putting out a complaint box. “Training your staff to ask customers for immediate feedback on how you can improve your customer experience is critical,” says Clint Evans, CEO of media strategy firm Stand Out Authority. “Your staff should ask this before the customer leaves your office or store—or within one hour of purchasing online.”

Stephen Wunker, managing director of New Markets Advisors and author of the forthcoming book, Jobs to be Done, recommends asking qualitative questions, which can provide more insight than a simple yes or no. “Rather than ask ‘How satisfied are you with our ice cream shop?’ ask ‘What brought you in for an ice cream today, and did we get that job done for you?’ You might find, for example, that the shop does well in satisfying a craving, but less well in providing a moment of spontaneous fun, or in capping off a good night out.”

Whatever method used, try to keep the questions simple and focused on the single most important concern you have for your business at the time.

2.    Social Media. Twitter, Facebook and online review sites serve not just as valuable places to interact with customers, but also as a place to grow customer loyalty. According to recent research, one in five consumers actually said they would not frequent businesses that did not respond to customer comments on Yelp and other review sites. While responding to a letter or phone call of complaint is critical for any business, a criticism—or even a compliment—on social media is very important for other customers and prospective customers to see. 

Be transparent about how you are using customer feedback to make changes in your business. Showing that you are taking comments and questions posted to social media seriously will not just strengthen a relationship with that customer, but alert other viewers of your social media profile of the positive steps the company is taking. Social media analytics tools, such as Hootsuite, Buffer and Keyhole, can compile customer comments on these sites into easy-to-digest reports that can then be acted upon by a business owner.

3.    Surveys. For a broader understanding of your customers, a survey tool such as SurveyMonkey will do the trick. You also can consider HappyOrNot, which combines a super-simple interface with detailed reporting on customer and employee satisfaction; or DilogR, a “smart” survey that can ask a different second question, depending on the answer to the first question. “If you are looking for something that offers more options and a better end-user experience, I would suggest GetFeedback,” offers Alexander Grosu, digital marketer at inSegment. While it costs a nominal fee (unlike the free SurveyMonkey), “the best part about [GetFeedback] is that it makes the surveys attractive from a visual point of view, and it’s also very easy to use.”

4.    Apps and Widgets. A number of apps make it easy to gather information about customers and put it into action. The Feedbackify widget can be added to your website to ask visitors quantitative or qualitative questions. UserVoice, aimed more at companies offering products rather than services, provides a forum where users can post comments and ideas, and vote them up or down, making it easy for business owners to assess what’s most important to customers. Get Satisfaction serves as a customer support community where users not only can ask questions and submit ideas, but also can create a page for a company that does not already have one.

By using all these tools, or even one or two of them, you will be on your way to better understanding your customers and improving your own business.

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Top Takeaway

The way you phrase questions to customers has a significant impact on the quality of the feedback you will receive. Ask qualitative questions, which can provide more insight than a simple yes or no. Rather than asking “How satisfied are you with your service?” ask “What brought you in today, and did we get that job done for you?”